The Tohono O'odham Indians of southern Arizona used to wrestle enough food from the Sonora Desert to sustain themselves. In the last fifty years, however, there has been a near total abandonment of indigenous farming on the O'odham nation. As a result, diabetes rates have skyrocketed on the reservation and contemporary O'odam have lost touch with their culinary traditions. However, a new initiative by a group called Tohono O'odham Community Action, or TOCA, is now working to revitalize the O'odham agricultural systems and reintroduce traditional food into the community. The article introduces Noland Johnson, an O'odham farmer who tends the bean fields of Papago Farms, and Ivalee Pablo, chef at Desert Rain Café, who serves O'odham ingredients to today's diners. The article also describes a unique cookbook published by TOCA, titled From I'itoi's Garden: Tohono O'odham Food Traditions that includes recipes, ancient farming techniques, traditional O'odham songs, and stories related to food.
Farming the Monsoon: A Return to Traditional Tohono O'odham Foods
marcello di cintio is the author of Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey into the Heart of Iran. His next book, In the Shadow of the Wall: Travels along the Barricades, chronicles his journeys to communities in the world that live alongside walls, fences, and other physical barriers. In the Shadow of the Wall will be published in the autumn of 2012. Di Cintio lives in Calgary, Canada, and online at marcellodicintio.com.
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marcello di cintio; Farming the Monsoon: A Return to Traditional Tohono O'odham Foods. Gastronomica 1 May 2012; 12 (2): 14–17. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/GFC.2012.12.2.14
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